Day One, 70,000 Tons Of Metal: Working Out The Kinks
Band Photo: Atrocity (?)
It seemed like one year had passed in a blink of an eye. No sooner had I experienced my first 70,000 Tons of Metal, which included a birthday that saw Helloween, Rage (w/Lingua Mortis Orchestra) and Metal Church play, than I was plotting my next adventure on the high seas. The floating festival is not only the most unique and phenomenal metal sojourns in the world, its boasts a diverse genre spanning 40+ bands. Though the 2013 installment represented an array of bands more geared towards my personal favorite tastes, a “Barge to Hell” like fog is built up around this year with Carcass, Obituary, Massacre, Death: DTA Tours, Satyricon, Terrorizer among a few which has swung the pendulum towards a harsher environment. For the traditional and power styles there is return act and “athletic rock” legends Raven, German euro power and proclaimed “happy metal” act Freedom Call, German symphonic metallers Xandria, Israeli symphonic ambassadors of peace Orphaned Land and the 700 piece traveling city Haggard, which single handedly make this 71,000 Tons of Metal.
When fans arrive early to Miami, its not just to get in ahead of potential bad weather in colder environments of the States and abroad...its to experience the plethora of beach parties and kick-off events. This was no exception, with Carcass headlining the official kick-off cruise event on Saturday, Jan 25th at Grand Central in Miami. Sadly, I missed this show - opting to arrive on Sunday, Jan 26th and taking the 28 mile journey to Ft. Lauderdale to try to catch the Amon Amarth, Enslaved and Skeletonwitch tour as it passed by the area. Even though arrival at Miami was an early touchdown, car rental and hotel delays caused me to miss all but Amon Amarth, who put on one of the best live performances seen so far this young year.
Arriving on the boat for day one, Jan 27th, excitement builds as many returning metalheads greeted each other like family. Friends I met in just my first year made me feel like part of that family. The boarding experience was ½ the time of the previous year and once again I boarded the boat and purchased the first alcoholic beverage three steps in. For those who have never experienced this amazing experience - Royal Caribbean converts into a metalheads paradise - something you instantly realize the moment the sounds of metal echo in the main shop area, replacing the normal standard/swing fare dished up on a “normal cruise.” There is nothing “normal” about this cruise....it’s a dream.
Planning is essential, but it is possible to watch all or part of 82 shows within a four days if you plan it right. This is a real marathon. My personally selected running order for the first night included Atrocity, Overkill, Cynic, Symphony X, Raven, Obituary, Finntroll, Vicious Rumors, Twilight of the Gods and Gloryhammer. The time span was 7pm to 4:45am. Sleep? If you decide to sleep you miss out...plan on 2-3 hours a day at most if you wish to have a full and rich experience. On board, expect to see band members all over the boat, each who will speak and take photos - because that is what this experience is all about.
As is the case in previous years, the first day is usually filled with delays, technical difficulties and delays - and this was no exception. The best of three facilities - pool deck stage - is assembled the same day as departure and usually starts in with bands at midnight or later (depending on how long it takes for assembly). Finntroll’s first set was the opener here and the 12:30am start time was minimally delayed. Back in Spectrum Lounge - the worst of the three venues - Atrocity, who were without a bassist due to the last minute request to play (the announcement was made on Sunday the 26th. Essentially, the band was on board with its other incarnation - Leaves’ Eyes, but the one difference in members would not arrive until later in the week when the two bands embark on a North American tour with Moonspell. So, the bass tracks were piped in via computer and that was the cause for the first delay. Sound wise, the bass tracks were overpowering, but the band made the best of it and had a fun and spirited performance. Vocalist Alexander Krull is one of the coolest death metal frontman, with a length of hair unmatched by few in the business. In place of the normal stage women that the band brings on tour, Krull selected two of the fans to join the band on stage for the “Okkult” albums catchiest tune “Satans Braut.” The set list also included “Pandaemonium,” “Blut,” “March of the Undying,” “Death by Metal.” When it was over, the delay caused a few of the following bands to be delayed (not an uncommon occurrence in a festival this vast.
The delay was fine, if you take into account that Overkill was up at the festival’s second best venue - Chorus Line Theater (which is similar to the finest theater clubs scattered around the U.S. and abroad) - and their set was also delayed by a half hour, which affected the rest of the bands playing there for the rest of the night. However, In the end it all worked out. Overkill put on a fantastic energetic set, though the sound was bad, plagued as the crew was getting its sea legs down. By the time Vicious Rumors’ set began, the sound issues were fixed, only for the Chorus Line Theater, VR was the last set of the day. Overkill mixed new and old classics - playing “Wrecking Crew,” “Come and Get it,” “Rotten to the Core,” “Electric Rattlesnake,” among others.
Back up to Spectrum Lounge, I was able to catch part of Cynic’s set. I own the majority of Cynic’s discography, however, the band doesn’t quite resonate with me as it does with a ton of other people in its fanbase. Incredible musicians, with a tremendous history in the scene (the majority of the members also make of the Death: DTA Tours as well), it was all to quiet and sleepy for a guy that wanted fist in face metal. The sound of their set was excellent.
Racing back to Symphony X, I had forgot about the Overkill established delay - so I took a much needed seat break only to have my much sought out reunion with Alex Landenburg (who is filling in on drums with Bonfire). Alex is not only my favorite drummer, but a friend and he sat down to discuss some things related to his new band 21 Octayne (most of which cannot yet be revealed) and his love for Symphony X. With Symphony X, the sound problems were nagging still and the band was visibly not too happy about it. The set consisted of largely the same one the band performed throughout the various “Iconoclast” tours - with a large number of songs coming from that latest album. For me, that is always welcome as “Iconoclast” represents my favorite from the band.
Now, the Spectrum Lounge was back on time, having utilized the planned hour and a half break after Cynic to get Raven on time. I cut the Symphony X set short to get up to see one of my favorite bands of 29 years. Raven was full on into its set, but I caught the last half hour - which consisted of songs like “Break the Chain” melody (the classic with an elongated center where covers of Sabbath and such are mixed in) and “Faster Than the Speed of Light.” The Gallagher brothers are always such an honor to see - and a privilege to shoot pics of as they often sword fight with guitars and bump into each other just the same in their long and rich history as the “world’s most dangerous band.” I’ll be sure to see all of the second set, so stay tuned for that.
Opting to take a much needed break, I skipped Obituary at Chorus Line to sit down and eat for the first time. I will not miss the second set. The first pool deck show was next and Finntroll kicked off the showcase venue with the absolute best set that I saw in the day. Filling in on guitar was Arsis’ Brandon Ellis. The band kept the set mostly within the last three albums, with “Blodsvept” getting most of the attention. The band was tight and sounded amazing (which was a shock had you heard the wire crossing madness of what was coming from the speakers at sound check). The cruise was really kicking into high gear now - with all three venues going. I witnessed the rest of Finntroll’s set and was blown away at the Vreth’s stage presence and ability to get the crowd whipped up into a fever pitch.
Meanwhile, at the Chorus Line Theater, the delays seemed to be corrected following Obituary’s set because Vicious Rumors was one song deep on the “Digital Dictator” set when I arrived. Where Finntroll was the best set of the night, it was by only a hair over Vicious Rumors who absolutely killed playing the sophomore 80's release in its entirety - some of which was never played live. The band was brilliant, but the star of the night was Dutch vocalist Nick Holleman who was by far one of the best live singers you will find. Celebrating an album that was older than him (guitarist Geoff Thorpe said he had guitar straps older than Holleman), he did so much justice to the memory of singer Carl Albert. His high notes were rafter shattering and his performance was the best single individual one in the first night and as far back as I can remember in years of show attending. After playing “Digital Dictator,” the band capped the night off with “Don’t Wait for Me,” and “Soldiers of the Night,” the latter my all time favorite VR song and first one I heard from them back in the days of its release.
Back up to the pool deck, Twilight of the Gods (who originally started as a Bathory tribute band and had played as such on this cruise before), followed up Finntroll’s best set of day one with one of its own. If you take into account that this was played with no rehearsals...it made it that much more impressive. The band played selections from the debut album “Fire on the Mountain,” and Primordial vocalist Alan Averill was brilliant. The band ended the night with Bathory’s “Blood Fire Death” which was appreciated by the crowd.
Knowing Gloryhammer was playing a set at Spectrum later in the week, I stayed up until the 4:20am start time for the opportunity to see and shoot pics of the pool deck performance of my second best newcomer of 2013. With as much cheesy beauty as they could muster, the band was absolutely brilliant live. Playing the majoriy of “Tale From the Kingdom of Fife.” the band acted out the story of Angus McFife (vocalist Thomas Winkler), using blow up battle axes and ending with the crowning of bassist James Cartwright as king. Cartwright was the funniest of the night - choosing to make nonchalant gestures to the crowd in such a passe manner - especially when crowned...doing the Queen of England wave.
This set was way too much fun - especially when Winkler said “If you look at the sky....can you imagine it filled with unicorns?” The he paused and said “I can’t....” which caused the crowd to roar in laughter. Alestorm’s Chris Bowes proves his genius by taking this band - making it silly without excuses or taking it seriously. Through all that cheesy greatness the band just sounded amazing. And the power metal performed is still played light years better than many other serious acts - so you cannot help but get sucked into a fantasy story you would otherwise laugh at. This was the third best performance of an amazing first day on 70,000 Tons of Metal.
Stay tuned for day two................
(For more information on 70,000 Tons of Metal, head on over to this location).
Carl Frederick is a staff writer for Metal Underground.com. From the early to mid-90's, Carl published his own fanzine called C.R.O.M. In 1997, he released a compilation entitled "CROM: The Resurrection of True Metal," which featured songs from bands from around the world, including the first U.S. release of any kind for bands like Italy's Rhapsody (n/k/a Rhapsody of Fire) and Brazil's Angra. Follow Carl on Facebook and Twitter: @CROMCarl.
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